DOORSTEP INTERVIEW: Masamune | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Welcome to Doorstep Interview, where we find out more about the amazing bands and artists that we have right here in the north east. This time it’s the turn of alt rockers Masamune to tell us where they get their inspiration from.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you, where are you from?

We are an alternative rock quartet from the North East consisting of Neil Anthony (vocals), Steven Kane (guitar), Jack Johnson (drums) and James Wallace (bass and backing vocals).

We grew up in different parts of the North East (Sunderland, South Shields, Houghton-le-Spring) and went to different schools but we met over the internet. We always say that if it wasn’t for the internet and mutual tastes in music we wouldn’t have found each other and wouldn’t have formed this band. We solidified as a band in 2012 when Neil joined as singer but the other three members have been together since 2009.

What inspired you to first start making music?

Neil: It differs for all of us really. I went to drama college so have always been inspired more from a performance arts background. I met Jack in another band we were both in before Masamune.

Jack: I started playing drums at school because my teacher said that it would be the easiest instrument to learn and pointed out I couldn’t pass my GCSE by rapping. I’ve always listened and been inspired by the more rhythmic side of music.

James: I bought a guitar at 15 because it appealed to me after getting properly into rock music and still haven’t mastered the Sweet Child of Mine solos. A few years later I picked up a bass for £10 from a second hand shop because a friends band needed a bass player and never looked back since. I’ve always liked music where the bass is more prominent and when I found out what I could do with a bass guitar I knew it was for me.

Steve: I grew up in a pretty diverse musical household, ranging from Elvis to Black Sabbath with Prince and Sex Pistols somewhere in the middle. I was always fascinated about the feel of different music and creating just felt natural as soon as I was able to.

Who would you say are your biggest influences?

As a band we all agree on bands such as Muse, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine, Led Zeppelin, Queens of the Stone Age. These are the bands that made us want to be in a band. We take influence more from the energy and the passion that they put into their music and performance but we all enjoy our individual things that influence our own little contribution to the Masamune sound.

Neil: Singers with distinctive voices like Antony Keidis, Freddie Mercury, Steven Tyler, Caleb Followill influence me to be confident with how my own voice sounds. They all have distinctive vocals which I think is very important and it appeals to me if a singer can be identified by the sound of their voice alone. Also, the fact that they have their own style and presence on stage adds to their originality in being a frontman and performer.

Jack: As I said before, my first musical journey was as a rapper, and I guess I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from the beats of my favourite rappers. People like Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep and Eminem. As I got older I started to get into rock music more and grew a lot of influence from the great rock drummers like John Bonham, Ian Paice and Bill Ward. But at the minute, my favourite drummers to listen to would be Chad Smith, Dom Howard and Matt Helders.

Steve: I have a few select bands that I listen to which I’ve probably used to help create a style I’m comfortable with. However, each song we work on takes influence from different places. I tend to draw a lot of influence by other members of the band and try and gauge as a listener and a musician what they would want to hear. I like to think that my sound has been influenced by a particular type of sound that was apparent in a lot of electronic tracks and video games I played as a kid.

James: As a bass player I love Chris Wolstenholme, Flea and generally any bass player that expands on the basics and colours their bass lines with different techniques and effects. I also enjoy classical music because it is the blue print of music and it definitely influences how I write riffs and think about music. For backing vocals I don’t really have any particular influence. I do listen to a lot of different genres so I really just add what I think will emphasise certain parts of the vocals. Our producer Richard Trubridge at TruStudios, who we recorded our EP with, influenced me to explore different things which has really benefited the overall sound of our new EP.

“if it wasn’t for the internet and mutual tastes in music we wouldn’t have found each other and wouldn’t have formed this band”

How would you describe your sound?

An alternative rock experience that produces a unique take on classical and contemporary rock influences and unleashes a barrage of explosive riffs, a powerful rhythm section, and memorable vocals that will infectiously burrow through your cranium.

Where do you see yourselves fitting into the local music scene?

We bring something different to the table. We have been described as crossing genres and this is a good thing in our eyes. We can bring the heavy riffs but we have the versatility to play nice chords too. It means we don’t limit ourselves to what we can do and we write what comes natural. If people discover us, we like to think this is the impression they get of us rather than just being another band. The North East music scene is very rich though. There’s a lot of great music out there if you look for it.

Tell us a bit about your live performances. What can we expect from a gig by Masamune?

We like to mix it up and we can do that with the different songs we have. Getting the crowd involved is important through clapping, singing along, and enjoying the gig. We all go to gigs and enjoy different things bands do and we’ve took some of that and put our own spin on it. We see a lot of the same faces coming to our gigs time and time again and this means everything to us. It makes us want to keep improving and spring something unexpected next time rather than performing the same over and over.

Can you tell us what gigs you have planned in the region in the near future?

We are playing a small run of shows in May to promote our new EP ‘Tension & Resolution’ and are looking into playing a few more around Northern England and also plan to go back south to support the release too. So far the gigs we have confirmed are: Friday 29th May at Think Tank, Newcastle, Saturday 30th May at Retro Bar, Manchester and Sunday 31st May at The Adelphi, Hull.

What do you think has been your biggest achievement so far as a band?

Our biggest achievement has to be having fans love our music. We started the band because we wanted to make music for our own enjoyment. It’s great that we are making music that people can relate to and be moved by. We’ve had fans cry at our gigs to one particular song called She Flies By Her Own Wings but also have people mosh to a song like House of Mirrors. It’s amazing that we can get those different reactions from people.

Have there been any major challenges so far in your musical career?

There’s always personal and industry challenges. Because we are only a small fish in a big pond it is impossible for us to be able to live off the band. It isn’t a job but we would love to be able to earn a liveable wage from the band and do it full time. We have jobs and family commitments and these are our priority. The band is something we do that we enjoy. If something was to come of the band that would be great. But, if it doesn’t happen, that isn’t going to stop us from making music and playing gigs like we are now.

What else have you got planned for the future?

Our new EP Tension & Resolution is going to be released on Monday 25th May through all online stores. You can pre-order now on iTunes and instantly download Run & Hide which is also available to listen to on YouTube with a music video. We are playing a gig at Newcastle’s Think Tank on Friday 29th May which is part of a small run of gigs to promote the EP release. Before the end of the year we are hoping to get back on the road again.

Masamune release Tension & Resolution on Monday 25th May. They play at Newcastle’s Think Tank on Friday 29th May.

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